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Entries in Molly Kemmer (23)


How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan

If they're honest, some health club owners will admit that they began with no greater plan than to combine their occupation and their calling. While that's commendable—you must have passion to succeed in any business—it's not enough. 

What you need to succeed over the long haul is a strategic plan. Here are some tips from industry leaders on how to formulate one.

Figure Out Where You Fit in the Health Club Landscape

The first thing you must do is identify what your club offers that others in your area don't. Is it lower cost? Better member benefits? More workout options?

Whatever sets your club apart, it should be emphasized in your strategic plan. That will help you leverage your competitive advantage. "Once your club is up and running you need to differentiate it, distinguish it, from the competition," wrote Joe Cirulli, president and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness.

Continue reading "How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan."

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Topline Findings from the IHRSA Health Club Equipment Report

This is the data, and the research publication, that the health and fitness club industry has been waiting for.

For years, there have been documents that have allowed club owners and operators to benchmark virtually every aspect of their business: best practices, programming, salaries, financial performance ... everything, that is, except what they do with equipment.

The new IHRSA Health Club Equipment Report: Spending, Utilization, and Programming Trends remedies that shortcoming of long standing.

An ‘Invaluable Reference’ for Club Operators

“This report provides owners with the vital information they need to understand equipment practices,” says Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. “It’s an invaluable reference operators can use to compare their spending practices, purchasing considerations, and programming trends against those of their peers.”

The soundness and success of the Health Club Equipment Report (HCER) is due, in part, to the clarity of its objective, the expertise of its creators, and the active participation of club practitioners.

“Before kicking off this project with IHRSA, we sat down with club operators to learn what they wanted in a report,” says Brian Kane, the senior manager for commercial management and consumer insights for Precor, Inc., the sponsor of HCER. “We showed them a variety of industry reports and asked them about the usefulness and approachability, and the reaction we got was consistent. ‘Great data,’ they told us, ‘but how does it help me make better decisions?’”

HCER’s Topline Tips

Click to enlargeSome of the topline findings contained in the report, based on responses from 93 companies representing 437 health and fitness facilities, are intriguing and illuminating.

The responding clubs indicated that they spent an average of $84,000 on equipment in 2015, and there was a distinct link between spending and revenue growth. The top-performing clubs spent an average of $90,000, achieving an annual growth rate of 10.2% versus 3.8% for the entire sample.

Some 50.6% of the respondents were multipurpose facilities, 45.1% were fitness-only clubs, and 4.4% were studio/boutique operations.

In terms of space allocation, cardiovascular equipment claimed the biggest share (20.1%), followed by traditional strength (15.7%), group exercise (12.1%), and functional-training (8.2%) offerings.

“Cardio is still king,” says Molly Kemmer, the regional manager for EXOS/Medifit, based in Florham Park, NJ.

Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, HCER stipulates that 33.9% of clubs’ cardio inventory consists of treadmills, 25.6% of elliptical, and 14.7% of upright and recumbent bikes.

Comparing his own club’s metrics with HCER’s stats, Jason Reinhardt, the founder and owner of Go M.A.D. Fitness, in Monroe, MI, says, “I think we have a good blend when it comes to this report. We understand the value of a large cardio offering, group fitness classes, and personalized training. ... We offer seven lines of equipment, and at least three of everything, so people can come in and work out rather than waiting for equipment to become available

Continue reading about the IHRSA Health Club Equipment Report in the September issue of CBI.


IHRSA Board Chair Prepares to Pass the Baton

Every ending yields a beginning, makes room for something new. So I’m viewing my own transition—from chairperson to ex-officio of IHRSA—as a process, rather than an event. 

My goals: continuity and increased momentum. 

Passing the baton well is critical to the result of any relay race. My last leg on the track will involve reflecting on the strategic course the board has set, working closely with Rasmus Ingerslev, the incoming chairperson, and planning a smooth handoff to guarantee a win for IHRSA and its members. 

Passing the Baton 

Having just returned from IHRSA’s incredible 35th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, in Orlando, FL, it’s perfectly clear that, for our industry, there’s never been a better time than right now. 

The 10,700 attendees represented 81 countries, and Rasmus brings a penetrating global perspective to his new post. He developed and subsequently sold two of Denmark’s largest club groups, and now serves as the executive vice-chair of Wexer Virtual, an international industry supplier. 

Rasmus is the right person at the right time. 

Given that, it’s important that the strategic focus of the association be on-target, precise, and vigorous; and, I have no doubt, the board of directors and IHRSA’s remarkable staff will ensure that it is. 

The Next Leg of the Race 

Going forward, I’ll be spending my time supporting the association’s leadership, and facilitating conversations in progress, and my pledge is to do so with:  

  • Optimism—serving with purpose, and in service to our members and the industry 
  • Confidence—committed to doing our best, and what’s best for our members 
  • Clarity and accountability—with regard to roles and responsibilities, communication of expectations, and current and future challenges and opportunities  

Serving IHRSA, its members, and the industry for the past year has been an indescribable honor and a deeply rewarding experience. I’ll treasure the new relationships made, and the established ones that have grown richer, through this experience for many years to come. 

My sincere thanks to each one of you for having given me the opportunity to serve in this capacity, and, also, for inspiring me with your passion and commitment to make a positive difference in the lives of our clubs’ members. 

After 35 years, we’ve only just begun! So, this isn’t, “Goodbye,” but, rather, “I can’t wait to see what’s next!”


13 Ingredients for Great Health Club Leadership from IHRSA's Board Chair

I’m often reminded that providing leadership isn’t a simple or an easy thing. Yet, it’s such a rewarding experience—one well worth the effort!

A few of the ingredients for great leadership that I’ve learned about include:

1. Be an eternal student both of our own industry and of others around us. Never stop learning, and growing, and waking up each day filled with passion and excitement. It’s contagious!

2. Visionary thinking/brokering ideas: View the organization not just as it is today, but also as it needs to be in the future. Foster a culture of speaking up, as well as of listening intently, to facilitate this approach.

3. Commit to doing what’s best for the organization, even if it’s currently unpopular. “Start with why,” share information, and be strategic to help others come to their own conclusions faster. 

4. See opportunities where others may see obstacles or nothing at all. Seek out reliable information to anticipate trends, remain connected, and stay ahead of the curve.

5. Call upon truth as well as your intuition. When great leaders recognize a fundamental truth about a business, a market, or emerging trends, they don’t bury their head in the sand. They dive into the tide of truth, trusting to their heart and gut.

6. Understand that you never arrive. Constantly seek ways to improve. And celebrate the victories, big and small, along the way.

7. Balance “must dos” with “thank yous.” Never lose sight of the fact that ours is a business of people serving people. It takes a village to do so well.

8. Embrace, engage, and enchant the human spirit of those around you to produce a culture that personifies what it means to be a “club.”

9. Learn from failures, and regard them as life’s greatest teachers. Encourage your team to be alert to the lessons and insights they offer.

10. Keep your house in order, literally and figuratively. Pick up the towels and put the weights away—even when no one’s watching.

11. Steering: A flock of birds doesn’t follow the lead bird’s squawk. They follow the direction the lead bird sets. That said: Be an eagle, not a turkey. Strive for excellence, and demonstrate what excellence looks like.

12. Take the time to develop and empower those members of your team who are most likely to become great leaders. This represents the best possible investment of your time and effort.

13. Satisfaction is very different from complacency—know the difference. Know what to hold on to, and what to let go of, in order to make room for something better.


3 Secrets to Health Club Success from IHRSA’s Outgoing Board Chair

Molly Kemmer has made great strides since she entered the fitness industry at age 18, when she earned a group exercise instructor certification. 

After receiving a personal trainer certification and a master’s degree in exercise physiology and health promotion from Illinois State University, she went on to positions of increasing responsibility at a number of clubs in the Denver area. In 2012, Kemmer joined EXOS/MediFit, a leading global fitness and wellness management firm, serving as the general manager of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado; in 2014, she became EXOS/MediFit’s regional director of community services. 

Then, in 2015, she was elected the chairperson of IHRSA's Board of Directors. 

With her term expiring in June, Kemmer spoke to Club Business International to reflect on the new ideas, challenges, and changes the past year has brought. Her interview was filled with sage advice, which we boiled down to three secrets to health club success. 

1. Understand and address customers’ needs and expectations. “I can think of several [dramatic industry changes in the past year], including the rapid growth of the studio, boutique, and niche models, and the continued proliferation of low-cost facilities,” she said. “The emergence of offerings that are positioned as ‘premium low-cost’ warrants some serious study to determine the long-term opportunity and market impact they may present. In addition to these developments, the market’s obvious appetite for new technology suggests that traditional club models are at risk if they fail to study ‘what works,’ and adapt to address consumers’ needs and expectations.” 

2. Don’t compete with technology—complement it. “In the case of our industry, [the popularity of wearables and other fitness technology] has a lot to do with the access, information, and convenience afforded by virtual connectivity. The key question, though, is why are consumers so interested in virtual access, data-tracking, cloud-community participation, etc.? What are they craving? And then, beyond that, how can clubs satisfy this elusive need via the membership experience in a positive and productive way? We should also ask what experiences can clubs provide that can never be replaced or replicated by technology alone? Find the answers to these questions, and you’ll create a unique and engaging experience—one with a lasting impact—for your members.” 

3. Focus on organizational culture to ensure longstanding success. “Today, the data is showing that it’s not one thing that makes a difference; rather, success requires a layered, multifaceted approach—one that’s supported by a culture with aligned values, and one that produces measurable and sustainable results,” Kemmer said. “We’ve also discovered that reward systems that are balanced between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, and buttressed by environmental and social support, produce better outcomes than ones that rely solely on financial incentives. And it’s important to offer the programming and physical environment that provide the motivation, inspiration, and convenience for employees to ‘work out at work,’ and to remain connected to achieving their goals—even when they’re not at work.” 

Read Molly Kemmer’s full interview in the April issue of CBI.


IHRSA Advocacy Provides The Protection We Need

Insurance protects the things we hold dear: our homes, our health, our automobiles, our lives, and our livelihoods. For health club operators, the ultimate “insurance,” perhaps, is IHRSA’s public policy team.

Helen Durkin, JD, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global public policy, and her group of “agents” are constantly on the lookout for impending problems, such as tax-exempt competition, burdensome restrictions on member contracts, and taxing health club memberships. Their mission: to protect IHRSA members and their businesses at the local, state, and federal levels.

The threats they address are often so inconspicuous that, if it weren’t for the team’s prompt and efficient responses, you might not be aware how many there are, and how dangerous they are. The 2015 record for Durkin’s crew is an astonishing 13 wins.

Recently, I spoke with Jim Worthington, the owner and president of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), in Newtown, PA, about a risk he’s faced. A proposal has been placed on the legislative docket to impose a sales tax on all of the health clubs in that state. If enacted, it would cost Worthington’s business more than $1 million a year.

Recognizing the danger, Worthington and Linda Mitchell, NAC’s director of public and community relations, did what any IHRSA member can and should do: They called on Durkin and her team, who immediately joined forces with them and their allies. Working with the support of local lobbyists retained by IHRSA, the group has petitioned state representatives aggressively.

The objective: to prevent passage of a law that would tax the public’s pursuit of healthy lifestyles.

“A monumental effort had to be mounted, and would have been impossible without the IHRSA team,” says Mitchell. “In order to help produce over 13,000 messages to state legislators in just one week, we had to not only engage our members and employees, but join IHRSA in reaching other clubs throughout the state. IHRSA staff and their lobbyist in Harrisburg supplied the strategy and technological resources, as well as minute-by-minute feedback in real time. It was a great example of marketing and communications at its best.”

The fate of this particular proposal remained uncertain when this column was written, so the industry’s vigilance and opposition remain both real and strong.

As an IHRSA member, I know that my investment in the association goes a long way—toward the annual convention and trade show, industry research, and CBI … and, importantly, to support IHRSA’s public policy team. They provide the insurance we can’t afford to live without.

To learn more, visit


Health Clubs Should Focus on Retention in 2016

January is a month of fresh starts and new beginnings, when people set new exercise goals. So, as more new members enter your club, I urge you to focus on retention and its importance to your 2016 business plan.

You might start by asking yourself, “Does my strategy rely more on competitive positioning than on price discounts and high-volume sales?” And, “Are we retaining members because we’re differentiating our club through an exceptional experience that just can’t be matched?”

If you haven’t already done so, you’d be wise to contemplate these important questions—and be truthful with yourself. Right now, competitors around the country are unveiling their “big deals” and “big guns” to lure as many members as possible. And, today, the fitness industry offers consumers a wider range of choices than ever before.

According to the 2015 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, approximately 16% of all club members belong to more than one club, and more than two-thirds of small studio members belong to a second facility as well.

As the report points out, consumers desire variety, “and, more importantly, they seek an experience that aligns with their interests and goals.”

Do you know how well you’re satisfying those desires, and if your members are raving fans?

You may want to consider using the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a measure of customer loyalty that’s highlighted in The IHRSA Member Retention Report.

To determine your NPS, you ask your members to respond, on a scale of 0-10, to the question, “How likely is it that you’d recommend our company to a friend or colleague?” Their responses indicate how many “promoters,” “detractors,” and “passives” you have among your membership. You then subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters to determine your club’s NPS.

The NPS has been shown to be predictive of club visit frequency and, thus, retention.

Be sure to take advantage of the free NPS survey available from IHRSA in partnership with The Retention People (visit, as well as “Slam Dunk Retention Campaigns,” one of the many useful sessions that will be presented at IHRSA 2016 in Orlando (

To find out more about IHRSA retention research, visit

Now’s the time to set your new goal: to focus on retention in 2016.


IHRSA Board Chair's Wish List for IHRSA 2016

I can’t wait. My kids can’t wait. Thousands of IHRSA club operators and fitness professionals around the world can’t wait—for IHRSA’s 35th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, March 21–24, in Orlando, Florida.

For my two middle-schoolers, coming to Orlando means great weather, and the chance to enjoy some family-friendly attractions in the area during their spring break. We adults anticipate the friendship, the networking, and the stimulation that IHRSA conventions always deliver.

Hard as it is to choose, here, I’m sharing my “wish list” of sessions and events in the hope that you’ll register for IHRSA 2016 if you haven’t already done so, and create your own list.

At the top are our keynote speakers—Jay Baer, Greg McKeown, Randi Zuckerberg, and Nir Eyal—who’ll discuss dynamic, effective leadership in today’s ever-changing marketplace.

Next is the 20th Annual Financial Panel, which will, once again, feature the best minds in the equity world. In addition, “Raising Capital in the New World of Crowdfunding” will explore this exciting way to raise funds.

The 7th Annual Women’s Leadership Summit will focus on leading with intuition—something women excel at—as well as sharing stories and best practices so attendees can improve their own leadership skills.

“Healthy Benefits: Fitness Reimbursements in the Insurance Marketplace” will help people navigate this territory and overcome any barriers they run into.

A number of the other sessions, including “Technology: Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges,” “Fitness Evolved: Wearables, Data, and the Fitness Industry,” “Cross-Channel Marketing in the Digital Age,” “Social
Media Makeover: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies for Success,” and “Doing More with Less: Effective Use of Data-Driven Marketing,” will enable attendees to better understand customer behavior in this digital world, and ensure that their message is getting through and that their services are meeting the needs of today’s members.

“Keys to Successful Nutrition Programming in the Health Club Setting” reminds us that nutrition counseling helps people reach their goals.

“The UFIT Project: Targeting a New Untapped Market to Increase Membership” will encourage clubs to make fitness available to people with any kind of disability.

Finally, the trade show presents all the tools clubs require to maintain their competitive edge.

Clearly, there’ll be plenty to see, do, and learn at IHRSA 2016. I look forward to seeing you there!


IHRSA Chairperson Discusses Industry Trends in Podcast Interview

There are significant opportunities for the health club industry to impact the obesity epidemic and reduce healthcare costs, Molly Kemmer, regional director of EXOS MediFit and Chairperson of IHRSA’s Board of Directors, said in the latest The Fitness Business Podcast.

“Our industry is at a peak of maturation right now—we have seen insurmountable changes just since I’ve been part of the industry in the past 20-plus years in terms of conquering this global inactivity and global obesity epidemic,” Kemmer said. “We have not yet moved the needle in terms of our impact there and what we can do globally to affect that, so that’s first and foremost on my mind in terms of the role [as IHRSA Chairperson] and what it involves—it’s really about impact in that regard for global health.”

The 42-minute podcast, which featured Kemmer as its #WomenInFitness leader, covered a range of topics, including changes with women in leadership roles, reducing healthcare costs, and a preview of IHRSA 2016 in Orlando.

“There’s just really no way to describe…the magic that happens when people meet each other in person,” Kemmer said of the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show. “‘Success by association’ is what IHRSA’s been founded on for 35 years, going into our 35th year for the convention, and really the chance to meet others in the industry, to make relationships, to do that networking…and to see the trends—to see what’s happening, what’s new, what’s current, and then what’s future for the industry, to get a finger on that pulse. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.”

Listen to the full Molly Kemmer interview on The Fitness Business Podcast here.


A Perfect Storm of New Trends Necessitates Astute Strategic Planning

The people I work with closely know that one of the things I like least is complacency. In companies, it’s reflected in strategic plans that fail to recognize weaknesses and threats, or to identify strengths and opportunities.

And now—particularly now—is not the time for complacency: in thought, word, action … or when it comes to planning.

A number of new research publications—The 2015 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, IHRSA Profiles of Success, and the 2015 International Fitness Industry Trend Report—make the case in a clear, inarguable way.

The rapidly emerging trends that are transforming the landscape of our industry offer three options: (1) acknowledge the pending storm clouds, build an ark, and ride the waves; (2) trust to your leaky rowboat and single, splintered oar; or (3) drown.

The clubs that survive to thrive will be those that own a unique value proposition, fulfill their brand promise, have a strong culture, and create—and execute—a strong and prescient strategic plan.

That message, one I shared with attendees at the 16th Annual IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Conference and Trade Show in September, echoes, repeatedly, in the pages of the Consumer Report (see “What You Don’t Know About Our Industry,” pg. 53).

Complacency—you don’t need it. A sound, forward-looking strategic plan—you do!

How can you develop one? A few tips:

  • Start with “Why”—Declare your purpose and develop brand authenticity. The report suggests: “Explore your value proposition and evolve appropriately to create a distinct competitive advantage.” Evolution not only means staying fresh and relevant; it also means leading.
  • Know your market—Search for and study trends, utilizing, among other sources, IHRSA’s many resources, outside research and authorities, member interviews; and community outreach. Utilize the findings to pinpoint gaps in your offerings, and to spotlight promising opportunities.
  • Measure relentlessly—Use the Consumer Report to provide a fresh perspective on your KPIs (key performance indicators). Are you using the right data, with age, gender, and income factors included in your mix analysis?
  • Engage—The report describes the dramatic upside of converting more of your clients into core and super consumers. What are you doing to foster such relationships? 
  • Plan for action—Your strategic plan should be concise, clear, with measureable outcomes and specific timelines, addressing each of the preceding topics.

It’s beginning to rain! About to pour! Time to take a tip from Noah?